Deadman's Island, top right, is accessible from Navy Cove Park in Gulf Breeze. (Photo: Gregg Pachkowski/

Gulf Breeze is doing away with Catawba Beach public access. Will more follow?

The city of Gulf Breeze is finally closing the chapter on its years-long Catawba Beach public access dispute. But has a judge's decision to cede the land to private homeowners established a precedent for other homeowners to have public access ways shut down?

The short answer, according to legal experts, is no. But it's a complicated no.

The Gulf Breeze City Council unanimously voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance Wednesday night to vacate and abandon the Catawba Street right of way, located south of Eufala Street. The ordinance will go for a public hearing Monday, and will most likely be adopted on second reading.

It brings an end to a saga that pitted two private property owners living on either side of the right of way against members of the public who said they had used the small strip of land to access the 20-by-50-foot beach on Pensacola Bay for decades. The homeowners claimed the beach was their private property, deeded to them in several documents. The city of Gulf Breeze took a "customary use" approach and spent millions in taxpayer dollars over the course of a decade to protect the public's right to use the beach.

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